Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

have to woman me!—I tell you that there's guillery* here, and I've a notion, madam, it's your doing, too. Didn't you read the name 2 Didn't you say it was your own dear Sampson's name, and that it always did you good to see it 2 Deny it if you dare!. And so, mister,” said she, turning passionately to Sampson Hooks, “pay me ! pay me now, without more ado, or depend upon it worse will come of it. Pay me, I say, or I'll blow you far and wide, and make your name stink from here all the way to Lunnun Pay me, or * > “Softly, softly, good woman,” now said Mr. Sampson Hooks, in his blandest and yet most commanding tone. “Let me advise you to moderate yourself. I say there must be some mistake; if you are sure that this is the paper that you had here but a few days ago, and that my name then stood on it, by what unaccountable circumstance can it have been removed ? Have you no person at home who can have done this?” “No, I have not a soul; there is not a soul who can have come into my chamber where I keep this note. No, no!” “Then, can it have been a rat, or a mouse, or a moth ?” “A rats a mouse ! a moth !" cried the enraged widow. “See there ; does a rat, a mouse, a moth, gnaw an edge like that ?” showing the place where the name had been most cleanly cutaway. “I tell you,” she continued, “a woman's eye can tell how that was done better than a man's can. That has been cut, and with scissors, too; no knife leaves an edge like that! There's guillery, I tell you, and I'll venture to tell you, too, when it was done. It was done when the lady had it at her work-table; and the lady did it herself.” “What! Jezebel—huzzy—abominable woman! Do you say that I cut away the name 2" The widow nodded short and fiercely at her. “Oh, do you hear and bear that, Mr. Hooks 2 " began his wife, sinking away into violent hysteries. “Woman—woman " cried Hooks, catching his wife in his arms, “see what you have done! You have killed the dear innocent You have killed her by your wicked lies Oh, never did she hear such language before in all her days! Poor, dear innocent, who would not hurt a fly, a gnat, a ” Mr. Hooks, was confused by his terror for his wife, and in his hurry rung the bell with one hand, as he supported Mrs. Hooks to the sofa with the other. Scarcely, however, had he done so, when he became sensible that he had not taken a wary step, and turning to the widow, who gazed on the scene with a savage indifference, “Good woman,” said he, “be discreet; preserve delicacy before the servants; all will be right, no doubt.” But no sooner did the vindictive widow see two or three servants in the room, than, regardless of the hysteries of Mrs., and the flurry of Mr. Hooks, she raised her voice, and held aloft the mutilated document. “Pay me, then, I say,” cried she, “and let me go! Do you think that God's curse will not alight on such as you, that can rob a poor widow of her all?” “Woman " cried Sampson Hooks, in a voice of thunder, “cease your slanderous, insane lies' I say, begone, and if you have anything to say to me, come another day. You have surely done enough now.” “No, nor half enough,” said the immoveable woman; “not a quarter enough; you have cut off your name from your own note! You have cheated me of my all, and I will speak. Ay, I will shout it at the top of the street, and through the whole country, if you don't pay me !” “Put out the mad woman t” cried Sampson Hooks, in a fury, quite losing that mild suavity which he had so many years maintained ; and the servants, who had stood staring and drinking in the strange words with astonishment, at length went up to her, and taking her by the arms, showed her the door. “Ay, go indeed Yes, go will I,” shouted she “but I will make you glad to give me my money again, yet!” And with great strides she marched off, and at the first house she reached in the village she began vehemently to relate her wrongs. This was glorious fuel to the fire of the villagers; they soon ran together; the woman, vehemently, and with tears, and vows of vengeance, detailed what had just taken place; and in less than a quarter of an hour the news was over the whole village. Men, women, and children, all rushed into the street. The tailor left his shopboard with his breeches kneesunbuttoned, his stockings half-down his leg, and a skein of thread round his neck. The smith's bellows ceased to blow, and the red-hot iron was left to cool on the anvil. The carter stopped his team, and the village street was full of eager groups, who were all at once talking, listening, and gesticulating, as if about to execute some great vengeance: The poor woman was stopped every few yards to relate over and over again the story; she was taken into a house to have something to refresh her, and the crowd besieged the door as if there were some great wonder to be seen within—an angel with a broken wing or so. All declared that the wickedness of these tyrants would soon be properly exposed, and a dozen or more of the sympathising villagers accompanied the poor widow down the lane on her homeward way, exhorting her to have legal advice, and to “trouble” old Sampson ; though it would have required a much more learned man in the law than any of them were, to tell exactly how. And what, then, was the real state of this case ? Could the Hooks have been guilty of this great crime? Was this mystery, indeed, cleared up? Another anecdote which has yet to be related will best answer all these questions. There was once a poor man—oh, how often has this been the fate of scores of poor men at once; or in how many instances, where, as by an infatuation, they have been, for a whole country round, in the habit of putting their hard-earned mite, before the days of savings-banks, into the hands of some fair-faced scoundrel, who at onee has stopped or run off—it was all the same to them—and their all was gone for ever! There was a poor man who had put his money—it was a good sum for a poorman, it was a hundred pounds— into the hands of Mr. Sampson Hooks, on his note of hand. The interest had been paid duly and to the day, for five long years. The poor man was secure in his confidence, as if his money had been in “Lunnun Bank.” He came at length on his halfyearly day, and Mr. Hooks paid up his interest, and was particularly civil; but on settling the payment on the back of the note, he observed that the paper was become much worn—it was: actually in pieces at the folds; and he told the poor man that he had better leave it a few days and he would have it carefully copied for him on a new piece of paper. The man, in true country faith and simplicity, readily complied, nay thanked Mr. Hooks cordially for his obliging behaviour. He came a week or two afterwards for his new note, and was shown into Mr. Sampson Hooks' presence. ---, * * * ** * “Well my good fellow,” said Mr. Sampson, who sat at his desk, with a tremendous heap of papers before him; “and pray what is your wish with me?” The poor man looked naturally astonished; but smiling, said, “I’ve called for my note, sir.” - “Your note? -What note was that?” “Oh, the note you were so good as to offer to copy for me.” “Ah, indeed! a note of business was it to some of your friends?” The poor man felt a cold, queer sort of sensation about his heart, and a sudden trembling went through his limbs, and he answered, with a great air of anxiety— “It was the promissory note for my money, which you were so good as to offer to have copied out, you know, the other day—the note I have had my interest on these five years.” : “A promissory note? To copy 2 My memory must fail me strangely. My good man, I can recall no such circumstance. Or, if I had it, it must be here !” beginning to rummage amongst and turn over the wilderness of papers. “There is an offer of money by Thomas Harrop ; is that it? or this, an offer to mortgage a tenement and some copyhold land—is your name Kettlebender?” “My name?: Why, you know my name well enough ' ' You know me—Simon Ragley, well enough—its my old note, my old crumpled note for a hundred pounds! Oh, laus, oh, laus! if it should be lost now!” The poor man had come forward from where he had been standing by the door, and now eagerly leaned over the desk and its chaos of papers. He was a tall, thin, bony man, with a worn and clay-smeared jacket and breeches, of a sort of coarse drab plush, smeared as if he were a brickmaker, with yellow and red. His knees seemed stiff as if with rheumatism, and his ancles clad in thick cloth short gaiters, and his big feet with such lumps and protuberances, as also marked the desperate battles he had had with this rheumatism. He limped and stood leaning hard on his thick stick, with a keen face: full of ruddy, fine striny veins, and deep tawny wrinkles, and with an expression of devouring anxiety that would have delighted the eye of a Rubens. “Pray God!” said he again, “it ben't lost 1 but if it be, sir, you know the sum, and all the interest is paid up-so you can give me, another. You can do so, sir—can't you? Ay, do it now, sir,” said the old man.” - * * * “Oh, very true. I could give you anything if I did but know that it was right. But as to this note—why you see, I can't call it to mind; my affairs are not like yours, my man; they are so vast they quite overwhelm my mind. I depend wholly on my papersI must do so; but as to this paper of which you speak, I see nothing of it.” “Is that yaller 'un it?” said the poor man, attempting to stretch forth his hand and take one up ; but Mr. Sampson Hooks pushed him rudely back with his hand on his chest, crying, “Stop fellow! what are you about? Do you think I allow any churl to come and thrust his paw into my private papers? Stand back 1 stand back, I say ! I will look at my leisure for this note you speak of, and if it be there, rest assured you shall have it. Your name is Webster, you say—” “Ragley—Simon Ragley is my name; but give me another note; never mind th’ oud 'un : burn it when you find it; give me another now. I can't go away wi'out it.” “A strange fellow are you!” said Sampson Hooks; “do you think that I give notes for a hundred pounds to any scamp that pleases to ask me? Show me any document proving that I owe you as much, and I will pay you it; but document I see none, and no such note can I call to recollection. A very likely thing indeed it would be to give you a note on such grounds. Go; come again in a few days. I will search—I will search; and if it's here— why, you 'll have it.” “But you know me, Mister Hooks! You 've seen me often enough—you wunna deny that l” “Yes, I have seen you, Webster, or Ragman, or whatever you call yourself; but where or when I am not so sure of. Have you worked for me? Where was it? * * “God Almighty!” exclaimed the old man, now transported with rage; “but a pretty villain you are I know you now, if you dunna know me! Gee meth’ oud note; or, by the Lord, I'll break your villain's skull!” And with that the bony fellow raised his huge knotty stick, and held it in act to strike, while his eyes blazed with actual rage; his teeth ground in his head, and his bony, sinewy figure looked like that of a giant skeleton, so high and gaunt and rigid did it seem. Sampson. Hooks, who stood near an open French window, at one leap stood in the garden and attempted to close the window on his antagonist, but the fierce peasant banged it open with his left arm, making the glass fly ringing around with a noise that caused the gardener, who was at work among his flower-beds at some little distance, to raise his head and stand staring at this strange scene. Sampson Hooks, who had evidently

* Deception.

« AnteriorContinuar »